Democratic Leaders Want Explanation of Delay of 100% Screening of Inbound Air Cargo
Three senior House Democrats wrote to Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole Oct. 31 requesting clarification of TSA’s recent announcement that it will not set a Dec. 31 deadline for 100% screening of cargo on international passenger aircraft bound for the U.S. TSA officials told lawmakers in March they were working to meet the 100% screening requirement by Dec. 31, two years ahead of schedule, but in October the agency said it had decided not pursue that deadline after a thorough examination of the unique challenges facing international cargo screening. TSA said it would continue to work toward this goal but did not set a new deadline.
This position was met by concern from House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Bennie Thompson, Transportation Security Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey. They argued that TSA’s emphasis on risk-based screening is contrary to the intent of the statutory 100% screening requirement, stating that while they understand compliance “could prove challenging” they continue to believe that 100% screening “is critical to guarding against evolving terrorist threats.”
The three lawmakers asked Pistole to respond by Nov. 14 to a number of questions. They asked whether TSA views risk-based screening as “the ultimate security outcome” or part of a “phased-in effort” that will eventually result in 100% screening. They inquired about the factors and officials involved in the decision to delay implementation as well as the current timeline for fulfilling the 100% screening mandate. TSA was also asked to describe the methods it is considering for screening inbound cargo and, if a risk-based approach is planned, for determining whether the cargo is high-risk and therefore must be screened.